Hello. This is me, I’m learning to walk again

Today is Tuesday 11th April 2017, I’m a 51 year old man and I have to learn to walk again.

Today is Tuesday 11th April 2017, I’m a 51 year old man and I have to learn to walk again. 

Last Thursday I was fine. I was a bloke with a sore back that I’d had for years and was on my way to work in the car. I’d stopped at Coop for lunch to save time later and when I walked back out to the car, my legs gave way. 

An odd feeling for someone who has always been fit and walks well over 30 miles per week. 

I guess I sensed it was something more than a coincidence as, back in the car, I turned for home and made another appointment with the doctor the same day. I’d seen them the day before but the pain had become progressively worse – beyond even what I could cope with. 

The second visit was even less successful than the first. I literally crawled up the stairs to the surgery, waddled into the doctor on extremely wobbly legs to be told I needed to get over it and the pain relief they had offered the day before that wasn’t touching the sides, was appropriate for the problem. So I waddled back out to the car to brave it out. 

No mention of spinal compression, tumours or even a broken vertebrae floating around chopping off bits of the nerve bundle coming off the spinal cord. 

The next day and quite a few pointless painkillers later I called 111. Still not prepared to describe it as a full on medical 999 emergency – surely the doctors who’d looked after me for nearly half my life couldn’t be that wrong could they? 

As background. I’m not a complainer. We don’t waste medical time and I’ve had a back problem since I was 13 or 14. All of my family have worked in the national health so we have been brought up to respect the system. I for one have never believed I had any right at all to kill a queue or try and beat the system. 

But the very sharp eyed paramedic, who was ex-army and a current rugby coach saw something else and speaking again to the doctor got me taken in an ambulance to the emergency unit. We did have one brief try to get into the back of his car but by this point my legs were no longer working at all and the chances of me standing up had evaporated completely. 

Lots and lots of prodding, pushing and testing and it was apparent that it wasn’t getting better and the pain which was bad was disproportionate to the impact it was having in my mobility. So the evening of Friday saw the first attempted MRI scan. That was a total disaster. I’ve had a few of them over the years and all have been painful. But even with morphine and other drugs, this time it was unbearable within moments so was abandoned with just an initial quick pass. 

The consultant knew they needed more and this time under a midnight general anasthetic I was (apparently) wheeled back in for another more successful scan.  

And this was when the NHS hit a new low and a new high within a few minutes. 

The low was at around 7am Sunday. Having got back to a little side room off a ward at around 3am and still foggy from lack of sleep and anaesthetic  I was woken up to be told by an unnamed doctor, who was obviously very junior and a bit out of his depth that I had a spinal tumour and needed emergency surgery. 

Tough to hear anytime. But on your own and drowsy it was a real soul breaker. I’d love to say I don’t cry easily but since I lost my Dad I do. I cry easily and quite a lot. So I sat on my own and cried. 

And then the magical Emelia arrived. Within minutes she has me more positive, smiling and 20 minutes later, when Holly my wife arrived, I was laughing. She quietly catheterised me, took me down for my next MRI and then unbeknown to me stayed with me throughout until I came out of the operation some eight or nine hours later. 

Now that restores your faith in the nursing staff that work in Britain’s incredible NHS. 

So that’s the first bit over and done with. The operation is complete. Now we need to understand what they found and plan a way for me to learn to walk again at 51 years old. 

It seemed pretty easy as a toddler so how hard can it be to relearn it? Let’s find out over the next few weeks and months. 

If you’d like to walk with me by my side you’ll be very welcome. I’m sure I’ll need all the help I can get. 

And as for my amazing family and friends. I’ve never ever felt more loved and appreciated in my whole life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. 


Home, safe and happy.

I’m home, safe and happy. I have had the most amazing care any person could possibly have.

I’ve been lucky. Very lucky. 

More soon about what’s been happening over the last few days, but here are a few images. 

In escape mode. 

And Frankie seems to have forgotten me. 

​And my small pack of drugs. 

Over and out (for now)

I’m nearly ready to go home. It may be today, tomorrow or the next day, but I’m medically able and maybe even safer to continue my rehab away from here.

I’m nearly ready to go home. It may be today, tomorrow or the next day, but I’m medically able and maybe even safer to continue my rehab away from here. 

I had thought I wasn’t going to say any more for a while but I wanted to relay some thoughts about what’s happened from my experience as a patient, where the NHS has been amazing and maybe look at the areas where someone, like you or I, could make things easier for the system. 

The system itself

I’ve been in here for nine days or more. During those days I’ve spent around five mins consciously talking with consultants and all of those nine days talking and working closely with nursing staff. 

So it seems obvious to me, who has the greatest influence and the least input into what is best for the patient

The balance is wrong. 

The consultants mend the mechanism, but it’s the nursing staff and their support teams who mend the mental. 

Nursing at its best is astonishing. It looks the patient in the eye and treats them as a person. 

When the service slips, there’s a risk of delivering ‘checklist’ nursing where what is best for the patient is overlooked for the convenience and safety of a checklist. 

We need the lists there to ensure the right procedures are followed at the right time, but we need humanity more. 

One of my only negative experiences so far has been the decision to insert a new canula into my other arm, add a new iv line in, under super bright lights after waking me up at 3am. The one on my other wrist hadn’t been touched for five days and I’d been getting the steroid it delivered as a tablet anyway. 

When you’re out of your head on painkillers, alone in a side room and woken up by a person you’ve never met before, with the door closed, that’s a lot of trust to earn fast and she didn’t. I asked her to check with a doctor that it was the correct decision through my haze and yet a few minutes later it happened anyway. 

It sounds crazily dramatic now, but that wasn’t right. 

But it could have been, if my voice had mattered and the nurse in question listened to me as a person as much as her checklist. 

The same nurse also tried to re-connect me up to a catheter bag and give me another enema in the morning but in a more awake state I was able to exercise more clear consent and stop either from happening. 

Rusty thanked me for the last intervention. 

So that is my only negative. 

What have I loved? 

The food, tea and biscuits 

It’s been great. Plenty of it, tasty, regular and enough choice to put on a menu for a week or so. I had roast beef for lunch and chicken for dinner today. Loads of tea, fresh water and sandwiches on the few occasions when I’ve missed the meal for whatever reason. 

The catering has just come back from Carillion to be in-house and even the staff themselves are saying it’s better. Something as simple as cutting a sandwich into four and serving it on a plate makes it looks more attractive and we half eat with our eyes anyway. 

The staff

You don’t come into nursing or healthcare to get rich or for the easy hours. The teams I’ve been with here start on the ward at 07.00 until 19.30 or the reverse shift is 19.00 until 07.30. 

That’s a long day or night with no discernible breaks, the stress and responsibility of seriously ill people and the pressure this brings. 

They get little in the way of politeness and courtesy from some and utter rudeness from many others. More of that in a mo as it’s my biggest bugbear about my whole visit. We need to do more to help these people and we need to do more to help the system cope. 

 Respect for experience

Again with the staff, it feels like experience counts for less than being able to follow the system. I understand that we sadly live in a litigious world, but for the same individual health details to be added into iPad, iPod and paper copies doesn’t feel like the best use of time to me as a pragmatist. 

The upside of the electronic version is that it does allow an immediate and hospital wide state of health check. It will show site wide problems immediately and allows those who matter to be able to identity those who needs help the fastest. 

But that needs to be supported by us the patients, as it will cause delays elsewhere. 

I witnessed a man on my recovery ward earlier in the week and from behind my curtain, all I could hear was complaint after complaint. 

‘The NHS has failed to solve this problem for 13 years now and it is still doing F*all etc’

I’m the first to be a potty mouth and hopefully the last to resort to genuine rudeness, but this tirade was awful to hear. Particularly on the back of another nurse being punched and bitten on the shift previously. 

Treat people as you wish to be treated yourself and you should be okay, was how we were taught to behave. 

So I looked. 

The loudmouth man was a 22 stone man in a 15 stone frame. A bullfrog in his bedside chair, barking the orders at everyone who could hear. 

Nursing staff can do a lot, but they can’t retrofit a 22 stone capacity heart if you’re not prepared to put some effort in and lose weight yourself to give them a sporting chance. There’s a lot of mechanical in medicine and even I can see that if you added another 50% of radiators to your house, you’d need a bigger boiler to pump the heat around. 

A school can’t turn a terror into an angel with out some parental input. Healthcare works best as a partnership of individuals who have respect for each other’s needs. 

Because we pay taxes does not mean we deserve or should expect any preferential treatment. 

Drink, drugs and obesity

On my first night in here when I was still in a lot of pain, there was a gent in the bed next door who every hour or so got dressed, let himself out of the neurology ward and came back stinking of smoke and more wobbly than when he left. 

I understand we have to respect an individuals freedom to self destruct, but surely not in a hospital setting. 

A&E, or just the Emergency Department, as they are trying to rebrand it, is overrun with drink and drug related overcrowding. If we took this out, then it would allow the rest of the system to cope. There has to be a way of achieving this. 

Good Friday night here this week after The day’s celebrations saw more ambulances than on any other night. Again that can’t be a coincidence. 

If there were less strain through those self-inflicted issues, then maybe much more of the funding should be diverted into education of the costs and debilitating effects of obesity. 

Prevention is always better than cure and whilst I know 100kg is hardly sprightly and I’m not one to shout from a tall skinny tower, I’m vowing to keep this down and be more aware of my own impact on this system. 

Just not joined up enough. 

The system itself is brilliant, but it’s just not joined up enough. Miscommunication is sadly rife, just when you need it. 

When you’re scared. 

I’ve given up trying to understand what happened as there’s no consensus. 

I’ve already seen discharged from the hospital Physio as I have already achieved a level of safety that would allow me to survive. 

My next physio appointment is on May 11th. Over three weeks ahead. In the meantime, I have a pamphlet with some exercise regimes to follow and an instruction for no  running or football for three months. It’s a good pamphlet, but it’s not like the physio who has driven me personally this week. 

And yet I can’t leave yet. 

I still need the dreaded MRI and I need some Occupational Therapist input to make the house safe enough for my new wobbly legs. 

I still have a catheter so maybe man nappies may be a thing for a while yet. I’m not going home with that still in place. 

And I can’t leave here without a badass walking stick. It needs snakes, crocodiles or just pimped in leaving here as Huggy Bear. 

My final word from here

Is thank you. 

We don’t say it enough. 

I’ve witnessed that all week. 

So thank you to the exceptional team here, particularly Emelia and Richard who caught me when I fell so hard. It’s Emelia in the picture at the top of this post. That picture is going on my hero wall at home and staying with me forever. 

Thank you to anyone and everyone who has read this and sorry for quite so many toilet references. It’s not something you think is important until it breaks and I wouldn’t recommend that. 

Thank you to all of you who have sent me literally thousands of messages of support, just when I have needed them most. 

Thank you to my family. You have been simply astounding with your love and support. 

I’m the luckiest man alive and I’m going home soon. 

The next message on here will be me back at home, in the garden with my beer. (Even though it may take the form of a cup of tea). 

Families, togetherness and hiding a bungalow about your person. 

This is going to be a little different today as I am honestly daring to dream. I’m starting to believe I can do this.

This is going to be a little different today as I am honestly daring to dream. I’m starting to believe I can do this. 

How, why, who?

I have been literally surrounded by my family since this started like never before. This weekend was meant to be a huge family reunion down in Kent but instead, most of it relocated here to see me. 

Last night my wife, daughter, her partner, son, mum, sisters, nephews and gorgeous niece all got together at ours for the first time ever. Even at my own Dad’s funeral we weren’t all together so this inconvenience we are going through together has been worth it for this and the increased love and closeness it has delivered. 

This is my mum, who herself has broken both her legs in the last year and is walking again with my two lovely sisters. 

If you get a chance to tell your brothers or sisters that you love them. Make the effort. It’s worth it. 

My other brother in law Paul who’s quietly putting up with all this fuss, changing plans and grinning his head off – just like he always does. 

But yesterday was a very big dayEdit

So I’ll summarize some of the things that happened. 

I walked 1645 steps

It took an awful lot of the day but I did it. I’ve got crazily bad cramp in both legs but do you choose to complain about that or celebrate the fact you earned it? I’m celebrating. 

I climbed a flight of stairs

And then came back down again. 

Only five. And it was easily one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done. But I did it. 

I don’t understand why stairs create so much fear but they did

This is my amazing physio who I’d love to name but she is too embarrassed or professional and won’t let me. She has stood along side me and pushed and pushed until it was me that was too tired to continue. 

Kids aren’t scared of stairs so why should I be? I’m back on them today and I’m winning. 

Bringing the medical team with you

My young Consultant came to see me yesterday and grinned. He professed that he was delighted with how things have gone so far. I stood up and looked him in the eye, shook his hand and thanked him for giving me a life back. 

And he looked down and to the side. I’d got through to him. It must be hard when you are repairing the mechanical bits of people all day to fully grasp the emotional side of what they are giving people with their extraordinary work and skill. 

To him he has opened me up, taken a lump or two out and put me back together. 

To me, I have a life returning that I didn’t honestly believe I would ever even get near achieving. And now I know I’m going to get there. 

Okay, where’s the poo talk?

It would be remiss of me not to chat about some form of bodily function during this. But in case I offend I’m not going to show you anything I made. I’m going to show you a bungalow. 

As a retirement living concept, it’s a great institution, but hiding them about your person is not to be recommended. I had been. 

And now it’s now gone. 

I pooed a bungalow. 

Blocked the QMC toilet in the process and felt an awful lot better for it. 

28 laxatives, 4 enemas and countless thumbs later and it’s gone. 

Well nearly. It’ll be gone as soon as someone can flush it away. 

So now I can just stand there and look a little natty in my Wonder Woman Robe and compression socks. 

Retouch courtesy of Charlie Pitt – Thanks Charlie. 

As one final note today. I’m going to be out of here soon and into conventional physio when these results come through. So if you know anyone, anywhere who needs an extremely lucky robe to help them get better, let me know. It’s full of belief, hope and strength and I’m nearly ready to pass it on to someone who needs it more than me. I’ll even walk it to them. 

And finally, finally today

One week ago to the hour I was being woken up to be told I had a spinal tumour. Not a great moment in anyone’s life. 

At the time, I was rescued by Emelia, who sailed in and gave me hope. 

This morning she just came in to see how I was doing one week on. And of course I cried and laughed some more with her. She’s the only one who’s not read any of this so I hope it reflects well on her. It’s certainly meant to sing her praises as strongly as I know how, as her amazing, quiet strength has been so important in getting me this far already. 

And today she’s going to meet my family. 

Let the fun begin. 

Walking back to wonderment and knowing the difference between exits and entrances

It’s Saturday 15th April 2017 and the world looks a different place again. I’m now pretty sure I’m walking out of here.

On Monday 10th April I didn’t know I had legs, had no bowel or bladder control and couldn’t even wiggle a toe.  

It’s now Saturday 15th April 2017 and the world looks a different place again. I’m now pretty sure I’m walking out of here. 

So what happened and how? 

At this stage, I honestly don’t know, but I like it. I’ve missed a few bits out so far, so I’ll cover some of them now to help explain the context of how I think this could have happened. 

My brothers in law both came and saw me on Monday and both brought their own different things. Ben a quiet stoicism, a huge slice of laughter and Georgia too. 

Stuart turned up and took control of the things I couldn’t. He’d driven up from Milton Keynes, back to Wirral and back again to find some paperwork and begin a critical illness claim for me. I’m useless at that sort of admin, Stuart thrives on it. 

By taking control of the one area I felt weakest, he took away so much stress for me that he allowed me to make this level of progress. 

And I don’t believe it’s flattery to him for the help, it’s the truth. It’s about him taking over what he does best which is quietly control the bits where he’s most comfortable and others like me are at our weakest. I’ve known him for 27 years, with 25 of them as my brother in law and for as long as I can remember, he’s always done it. 

The difference is now, i’ve noticed the difference it’s made. 

Because I’m walking back to wonderment. 

Via a good poo

I know I talk about poo a lot. 


You don’t realise it’s a privilege to know you’re having one until you believe you can’t. 

And I’m over that now. I have now been and sat on a toilet, having decided I needed to, excused myself from my wife on the chair beside me and zimmered off and done one. 


Again a little context. As every poo needs. 

My bottom has been very much a trouble free exit for all of its life. A one way street in an outwardly direction. 

When Oscar Wilde was having trouble with his bottom and went to see his doctor about it, he was asked to explain the area of pain. 

Wilde said ‘here, by the entrance’

The doctor then explained it was an exit and that’s probably where his trouble lay.

Well for me, in the last week or two, mine suddenly became an entrance too. Not through choice, but neccessity. 

Both GP’s saw fit to have a rummage with full on head torches, rubber gloves, lubricants and oversize thumbs. Needles followed to assess whether I could tell whether something was sharp or blunt. 

Yes, that is a bloody needle you are poking up my bloody hole. Stop. Now. Please. 

All week, doctor after doctor and nurse after nurse have burst the unpleasant little face of my starfish with a thumb, the occasional needles, blunt instruments and enemas. 

But my exit is intact. And I can poo. 

Life is going to be okay. 

Looking at things through little people’s eyes

Back in 2009, I wrote on my blog about brand owners, my beloved Howies in particular and how they needed to keep remembering who their customers were and see the world through their eyes. It featured Tom Hanks and the film Big too. 

In my new life now I’m hoping that I can appreciate the difference between just being present and actively listening. My pal Leila once admitted that we both keep our mouths shut when the other is talking, but only because we are thinking about what to say next. That’s not listening, its politeness. 

And it’s changing. 

I know I’m already seeing things with a totally childish awe and wonder. The joy I’m taking from some chewy toast with butter is more immense than I could ever have believed. I’m looking at the clock and some is due soon. 

I’m vibrating with excitement. If there was a toast bell, I’d be salivating. 

It’s not just about walking again it’s about clearing the fog and seeing again. 

That’s why I’ve began to enjoy this journey. 

And journey it is. Watch out here comes Wonder Woman

My very good friend Tim Garratt brought me in a kind and thoughtful present. 

A Wonder Woman robe. 

So I used it to fly. 

I’m sorry I’m dressed like a fool and grinning like a clown. But this is what someone who feels like they are the luckiest person alive looks like right there. 

I have it all.  

Love and freedom. 

There’s no medicine in the world quite like it. 

What next?

There’s still lots up in the air and we don’t know how it will fall. 

I’m due more scans on the MRI. It was delayed yesterday as there was a traffic accident locally and as they were emergency patients, they took priority. 

Wait, stop, listen. 

I’m no longer an emergency, I’m out of NSPU and I’m recovering. 

My first thought wasn’t to blame the system it was to praise it and to understand how lucky I’ve been to get through this first critical phase.

The scan is looking to confirm what they’ve done. It’s also to search for other tumours, if they exist. What was removed may have been a tumour or it maybe a bone fragment that had a growth around it. We don’t yet know. 

If they do find more, we fight on with the same strategy and different tools. Hopefully it won’t come to that but the threat is hanging there and we are going to beat that too if it arises. 

There’s also the pathology report for what has been removed. It’s probably benign, but i’m not in any great hurry to see that either to be honest. I’m enjoying one day at a time and taking on each battle individually. 

3am friends

I’m now lucky enough to be in a little side room off a main ward. I’m next door to the NSPU team who nursed me for the first days after the operation and even though I’m not under their watch, I’m loving my 3am chats and their constant and ongoing care. Thanks again to two astonishing nurses in Gail and Melissa. 

Family first

My sister and her family are over from Australia by some beautiful coincidence this week. We were due to be having a 30 person cousins reunion down in Kent. Selfishly I can no longer attend so they are moving it here. 

So I’ve got 20 plus to see me today. My mum being one of them. She’s 78, broke both legs within four months at the end of last year and is walking in to see me. If there was ever a sign I’m my mothers son, that’s it right there. 

Today is going to be a good day. 

Tomorrow is going to be even better. I’m surrounded by my family, friends and enveloped in a love I never thought I deserved or was even possible for one person to experience. 

So onwards and upwards. Wonder Woman flies. 

Good days, darker days and great days ahead. 

Thursday 13th April will go down as one of the best days ever. I walked again.

For some of the lows I’ve hit in these few days. Thursday 13th April will go down as one of the best days ever. 

I walked again. 

Only a bit, but I walked and that gave me an incredible amount of hope that there could be some normality at the end of the road. 

It would be easy to dwell on the low points of your life, it’s probably what we do when we are having doubts. The awful ‘my glass is half empty, my life is hollow and woe is me, I’m not good enough down days.’

But the life affirming, ‘glass almost completely full, Seattle Fish Market, choose your attitude good days’ are all made worth it by the comparison. 

The stained glass image came from my little cousin Dee in Ireland. It’s a Harry Clarke stained glass in West Cork and it inspired me. 

Dee has always been important and inspiring to me and even when we were both little I cried because I couldn’t hold her. 

So on Monday I believed I may never walk again. And Thursday I made my first steps again. 400 of them according to my Fitbit that’s stayed on my wrist throughout. 

Whatever else happens, ever in my life. I’ve got a great day to look back on whenever I need it from the depths of despair to the heights of the heavens, in a single step. 

And as a small comparison, this is what Monday looked like. 

I think you can see the difference. 

Any toilet stories?

But of course. There’s rather good news here too. 

When I was in my first job in the beautiful little advertising agency Bird and Moore in Litchfield. I worked with Neil Moore and Norman Bird, both ex Saatchi guys and unbelievably inspiring. Our secretary was Sara who is still a friend today and hopefully reading this. (Hi Sara)

For some reason Neil and Norman brought in another ex colleague who it’s probably best I don’t name. But let’s just say he’s called Allan. 

We didn’t get on. 

He wasn’t a morning person and that was apparently something I should just accept. He would ignore direct questions until after midday and genuinely ignore you until he felt ready to speak. Not great as a mentor. 

When I asked if I could book a days holiday to sit my CIM diploma in Marketing, he refused saying I’d be better off taking the time to shag a client. Thankfully I ignored his sage advice and passed my CIM. I even have a Fellowship of it now too. 

So the reason for Allan’s impromptu intro here is about his daughter. Let’s call her Rosie. 

One dull, miserable, unpleasant toxic day in Allan’s existence, whilst he was looking at his half empty tea cup he got a call from his wife who clearly didn’t know the pre-midday rules. 

Allan smiled. 

‘Are you okay?’ I ventured when the phone went down two words later. 

‘Rosie did her first poo on the loo’ 

That was it. The secret door to the cold locked heart of this miserable depressing man was his daughter doing her first poo on the loo. 

Well I’m like Rosie now too. 

I did one yesterday too. On a loo. 

Not like one of those giant growing indoor fireworks of the seventies that my dad brought home to attempt to delight us with one year, that filled the house with smoke so acrid they would never be allowed to be lit in a controlled environment these days, let alone indoors. 

But a poo never the less and more importantly bowel doors were set to manual. There is now a real chance I may retain control of my bowels and that in my mind is very big piece of news, even if it wasn’t the very biggest piece of poo. 

So normality returns

I haven’t written much about the medical side of things here yet. I’m not sure I still understand them all and the information I’m getting is not at all consistent. 

One minute I’m on a ‘Sheffield Pathway’ that would have involved me lying totally still at 30 degrees for two weeks and next morning I’m being danced round a rotunda and onto a commode. 

Melissa, another one of the most amazing, dedicated, life affirming super nurses who has looked after me stood and fought my corner. Not that she thought the treatment was wrong, as we both agree that we have to do what is right for the long term, but that the consistency of messaging was wrong.

When I got to my new room last night and my last visitors had left the first to pop her head in was Melissa. I’m not even on her ward any more and yet she cares enough to come and say hi, how are you and already knew I’d walked. 

It’s the difference between good and life changing and it’s only about giving a thought for others in your own busy ‘whatever your glass’ sort of day. 

What’s your perfect day?

I’m quietly redrawing my perfect day in my head and it’s looking good It’s also looking realistic again and that’s what’s driving me on. 

When Ted was little we asked him what his perfect day involved. 

‘A back scratch, then a limo to Goodison to play footie with Everton with a bacon buttie on the way’

I’m not sure it would be exactly the same now, but mine wouldn’t be far off. 

We had a day a few summers ago that wasn’t far off it. 

Jack was new on the scene (but always in the life of) Neice Sophie and on his best behaviour. I was in the garden with a beer in hand and having one of my smoking days. (Sorry I know it’s bad and all that but I don’t smoke as much as I used to) and Sophie and Jack came and joined me. Ruby, then Holly all came too. 

I was quickly raiding spare wine, beer and snacks from around the house and it rolled into a 4am finish. 

One of the simplest, most memorable nights of my life. Seeing my lovely Neice so loved and in love and seeing all of us together just talking and laughing. Completely and utterly what life is all about right there in your own garden – if you choose to notice it. 

No expensive props or trinkets, just our own garden and people we love around us. 

So whilst I would rather play for Oxford than Everton and I’m not that keen on bacon butties, a morning poo, long hot shower, smoked salmon and soft scrambled egg brekkie, walk with Holly and Frankie the dog and an afternoon beer and home for dinner in the garden with friends and family. 

That’d do me right now. It’s where I’m heading in the summer. I’m going to be there by August 21st latest at Ruby’s 21st birthday. And I’m going to walk through my perfect day to get there too. 

See you there. Thank you for all of your lovely messages and amazing support to all of us. You may never know how much a little kind comment means when someone really needs it, but it’s worth throwing it out there anyway, just in case. 

Love, wisdom and teabagging an Eskimo

There’s not many good things about getting older I’ve found. But maybe one of them is wisdom

There’s not many good things about getting older I’ve found. But maybe one of them is wisdom. And I saw it in my talented, writer in waiting Neice, Georgia. 

We have a small sign at home in Ruby’s room produced by another hugely talented Neice Maeve who runs Too Wordy and it says 

The secret to having it all is to realise you already do. 

Georgia had spotted this and put it on Instagram. That’s excellent news for a 21 year old to have recognised it already. 

Suicide rates in men, which are massive in the young, fall off markedly when they reach 50. A great friend of mine recently lost his son to suicide at 20 so it’s a subject I’ve reflected on a lot. For any young person who is clearly loved but feels  bereft is a tragedy and it needs systemic change. Maybe a cultural change of emphasis between this generation and the next. We older one need to look at the role models WE have created. 

It’s not that you settle for less when you get older, I think it’s more that you accept that what you have achieved in your life to date is more than okay. It may be that your thing isn’t about wealth and possessions but experiences. It may be more about teaching and inspiring than owning. I know it is for me. I didn’t know that for most of my life. 

My 51 year old advice to my 21 year old self is that when you look backwards, the things you think are important at the time like owning stuff are all irrelevant. 

The stuff that matters is the little things you do. It’s a face of your child or your love when you’re swimming, a smile when you’re walking and a kiss when you’re not expecting it. So throughout your life you need to love the little bits, as it turns out that they are where the real treasures lie. 

I was speaking to students at Nottingham Trent Uni recently and asked indirectly what I thought of their generation, so I gave them my reflective 51 year old answer. 

You campaign well and you clearly care about the earth and others around you, but the success you measure against is a false one. There are too many role models being held up for what they own and how they look, rather than what they have achieved and how much of a difference they have made. It’s meaning that for most average and bright young people, they can never achieve the status that’s being lauded. They may be perfectly bright and perfectly good looking, but can never be rich or beautiful enough in that crazy media driven ideal to see themselves as that type of successful. 

So it’s why Maeve is so right to have written it, Ruby to display it and Georgia to recognize it. You may already have it all so have a look first and just check. 

There is good coming out of this process and if it wasn’t quite scary it would be enjoyable. 

Yeah yeah yeah but what about your balls?

So the bits that everyone are worried about are my poor balls. It’s Sunday night, I’m back on the NSPU ward after surgery and it’s like Satan has played Clackers with my knackers. They are hot and painful. 

To describe the pain, think of the 12 year old me, freshly minted testicles hanging majestically in their pristine packaging with barely even scrotal bum fluff to spoil their sleek and smooth lines. 

I’m flying down Station Road Hill in Ivybridge on my Raleigh Grifter. 

The brakes give out. 

I need my balls as anchors. 

I sling them behind me and they catch in the knobby tyres and grip the burning summer tarmac. It’s like they’re covered in Swan Vesta match heads mixed with caps from a seventies kid’s gun and explode with every lump and bump in the road. 

Yeah, it’s that painful. 

But luckily I’m in NSPU and I have the second angel nurse, Richard. 

He arrives with rubber gloves and a tube of anaesthetic gel to ease the pain. I dive in and slather them all over. Literally half a tube and wait. 

Nothing. Still Satan’s breath rising from the bed. 

So one rubber gloved rummage later and all they are is wet. Slimy from gel and even less pleasant than normal. It’d failed. My balls are still burning like a bastard. 

But I have a solution. Ice cream and eskimos. I’ll wash the gel off and  leave you paint your own picture of how they’re going to be combined to cool the spherical trouble makers. 

If I lived in an igloo, I’d leave them outside the door. 

But I’m one of the lucky one here

One of my old school friends said something in a comment that made me think. 

She said I was unlucky. 

And here’s me thinking I’m one of the lucky ones. Maybe even the luckiest. 

I’ve had a chance to completely reset my life. To rebuild it again with whatever we have left to play with and that’s going to be good enough for me,  for a great life. 

It started with a low

Monday morning and the end of Richard’s shift was a true low point in my life. I’ve never been more down or felt more sorry for myself and it’s where the incredible compassion of a brilliant nurse can turn your whole life around. 

And Richard did that. 

In the morning, the physio team had tried to get me standing using a Zimmer frame. I stood up, completely on arm power alone and tried to edge my foot forward an inch, to absolutely zero reaction. I didn’t even have the ability to lower myself back down. I flopped back onto the bed. I’d failed at the first simple hurdle. 

I was ruined, broken and back to my sobbing self. 

When they left me I lay back on my bed and looked at the the blue sky outside. 

The sky was full of contrails from planes high in the Stratosphere heading to somewhere I’d rather be. The birds were flying around the windows and I knew that was all the inspiration I needed. 

So I started writing. That’s where this began. On my phone, in tears looking at the blue, blue Nottingham sky. 

The power of family and friends

I wrote to my friend Troy yesterday a little note about what was happening. 

It has been truly amazing to see the force of a family fighting together to get one little bit of it mended. Incredibly humbling and I’ve never felt more loved in my life. So I’m already beating it hands down. I’m winning here. 

It’s going to be Holly’s and my 25th wedding anniversary next year and whilst not every year has been the best year of our lives we look at each other knowing we love each other more than ever before. Our 25th year will be our best ever whatever we are dealt. 

I look at Ruby. Proud, gay, loved, talented and beautiful and couldn’t be prouder of how she pushes me to be a better man. She sets me difficult expectations and then loves me more when I try and rise to them. 

I look at Ted and he’s become just the man you’d hope he would be. Cool and fiercely bright. He’s going to be okay. We’ve done well with him too. 

And then my big sisters. 

We have said kinder things to each other in the last few days than we have said to each other for the rest of our lives. We didn’t say unkind things before, we just didn’t say what should have been said. It’s simple stuff but it’s now been said and that feels very good. Whatever happens. 

This picture was taken at Mum’s house in 2013 or so to celebrate her birthday but I also used it again on National Siblings day in 2014. 

And on Monday 11th, the day after  National Siblings Day 2017, my two siblings arrived. One fresh from Devon and the other fresh from Australia, via Devon. That’s a good thing and gave me a huge lift. 

So yeah I really am one of the lucky ones 

To love is to live. To feel loved is a privilege that not everyone will ever feel. I feel truly loved. So thank you. 

When I look back at my life it’s been good. I was out walking with Holly and Frankie the dog a few weeks ago I confessed I was happier than I’d ever been. I’d ditched things I’d wrongly found important, I work with great people who I admire and was loving life rather than loving the possessions that embodied conventional success. Those measures will only ever date and fade. 

We display those trinkets to try and impress others with our visible wealth, when a far more valid measure of real success should be your inner happiness and how good you make others feel by your actions. 

Love doesn’t fade if you cherish it, work on it and live it out loud. It grows  

This picture sums it up for me. 

I’m in a £1500 smart car, driving with our dog Frankie who even has her seat belt on to keep her safe. I loved that car and it was cheap and slow but amazing fun. I’ve driven faster, flasher cars for years and yet none have made me smile like the simplicity of life in my old Smart Roadster. 

Different but better

So we don’t know yet what the future holds. It going to be different and it’s probably going to be simpler. But I know it’s not going to be alone. It’s going to be full of love and laughter and beers in the garden. 

For me, that’s going to be enough to get my fat lazy arse off this bed and out of here. I have work to do. 

See you soon. 

What still works? What will work again? 

Before we get up to date we’ll just jump back a few days to Sunday night. The operation is complete and I’m back on a ward with Holly by my side.

Before we get up to date we’ll just jump back a few days to Sunday night. The operation is complete and I’m back on a ward with Holly by my side. 

I feel okay. Not quite sure what had happened and what exactly took place. But I know I feel okay, don’t appear to be in anywhere near the pain I was before. 

But my legs are totally dead. You don’t even realise that you take it for granted that you send a signal from your brain to your feet to move your toes and they move. Well, when you have a spinal cord injury the message doesn’t get through, either as clearly as it did or maybe at all. 

Mine aren’t getting through at all. So my legs aren’t working. That’s scary right there. 

The bladder is another thing again that you don’t realise you take for granted. I won’t know for a good few days if this is all still operational. The bundle of nerves that come out from under the L1 and L2 vertebrae control these systems and have been damaged or torn. We genuinely don’t know yet what the outcome is going to be. 

And your bowels. Who has ever given bowel control a thought? Certainly not me. I’ve hardly ever been constipated. I’m like a clockwork plopper, so the thought of losing control of my bowels horrifies me. Holly asked me whether that would be okay if I could still walk and I still don’t know the answer. 

Walking normally or losing bowel control? If you had to choose in a direct swap which would you honestly opt for? 

A seven day per week 24 hour NHS

We have the media all over our NHS. Doctors don’t work hard enough, you can’t get treatment at a weekend, all the consultants don’t work at weekends, there are no operations going on at weekends. All of this is bollocks. Well it is in the QMC anyway. 

I had two general anaesthetic MRI scans and spinal surgery. 

On a Sunday. 

As an emergency patient 

So there was no notice of me coming in and needing it. 

The consultant who saw me before the first MRI in the morning saw me in the evening at 11.15. The night staff on a recovery or HDU ward are amazing people who deserve medals. I’ve seen biting, punching and screaming from post operative patients already being responded to with kindness, compassion and care. They do not deserve this unfair criticism. 

The ones who do are the GP’s (or at least my two) who can’t even get up to come and see you and insist you make an appointment a week or two ahead to fit around the lifestyle businesses they now run. They take on more patients and give worse service as it’s more profitable. So I have to ask whether their decision making is about the best interests of the patient or the best interests of their profits. I have to ask whether they thought…..

If we don’t send him to hospital and he self presents, does it come off their budget and not ours as it could be a buggy this one. 

Well buster. The NHS is all of our budgets and all of our responsibility to defend. We need to do it too or it is going to be taken away by some careless and even reckless reporting in the Daily Mail. Fight to keep it working and getting better. Don’t let apathy destroy it. The opposite of love isn’t hate it’s apathy and if we take the NHS for granted we are guilty of apathy. 

But on a different note…

Great balls of fire

Now whilst I’ve had very little pain, the first thing I noticed when I came round was that someone seemed to have peeled my scrotum and dipped it in battery acid. 

Well that’s what it felt like anyway. It’s actually just pins and needles but so utterly consuming as pain goes it’s hard to focus on much else. 

Read the reviews of Veet for men on Amazon and the description of the napalm like burning sensation that hits you and you may understand. That type of personal grooming is an awful long way from my way of life so it’s an unexpected and very unwelcome addition to my new life. I hope it’s just pins and needles and not a permanent nerve damage. Again it’s a wait and see. 

This picture was taken immediately post operation. I am going to smile because I’m quite glad to still be here. 

So that’s Sunday over. I’m still hearing mixed views of what the operation entailed. More of that later. There’s talk of tumours, broken fragments of bone floating around and all sorts. They need to get me into another MRI to find out what’s left behind and if it’s all been caught but I’m trying to avoid that without another general anaesthetic if I can. Luckily I have plenty of time on my hands. 

So in life’s big scary journey from child to adult to grave. To listening to Stephen Covey and his thoughts of ‘live, love and leave a legacy’  today was all about big surgery, the most amazing care system in the world and little tiny baby steps back to full health and fitness. Skiing, footie and a few beers in the garden with family and friends. That’s what’s driving me on. 

In truth the end of today is about trying to wiggle a toe and see where that can progress to tomorrow. I’m hoping it’s a long way. 

Thanks again to my lovely family and friends. The amazing Holly, super supportive in laws of every kind – mother, brothers and sisters, my lovely big sisters and their families,  gorgeous daughter who insists I keep the bar very high and son who wasn’t expecting me to outdo him after his druggy festival week in Amsterdam. He genuinely called me a pussy last week for driving slowly as my back hurt. Ha ha. He’s since taken that back and I’m looking forward to seeing him home and with me. 

More later. And thanks for reading. Please feel free to share this with anyone and write to your MP to do your part in defending our NHS too. https://www.writetothem.com/